The list author says: "When I first heard ZAO in 2000, I thought it was the worst music I'd ever heard. I was an 11 year old kid, just getting into punk, and I stumbled across them on a T&N cd sampler. Two years later, Norma Jean came out and broke me in hard to the wonderful world of hardcore. Quickly, ZAO became revered with the highest levels of respect from me.
They invented the hardcore/metal scene four years before there even was a scene. It's hard to imagine where hardcore/metal would be today without them. So here's my salute. This is their complete (wide-released) discography, best to worst, according to me."
"This is ZAO at their best. With this release, they completely reinvented themselves and brought out their best song-writing. This is the most challenging and well-executed concept albums I've ever heard. Best songs: Praise the War Machine, The Rising End."
"This is the first incarnation of ZAO as they sound today. They had four new members, and a totally new sound (by their own previous standards, and the standards of the rest of the metal world). If you want to witness the birth of metalcore, it can be found in this 1998 release. Best songs: A Fall Farewell, Ravage Ritual."
"ZAO's latest release showcases some of their most polished work to date. Basically, if you threw all the ZAO cds together, and strained out the best aspects of each, you'd get Awake?. This is ZAO at their ZAOist. Best songs: Romance of the Southern Spirit, Reveal."
"To most ZAO fans, this is their best album. It's raw, heavy, dark, and probably the most hateful album to come out of a band on a 'Christian' label. The good outweighs the bad and we get a few of the greatest ZAO songs ever, but then we get equal throw-away songs. Best songs: Savannah, Skin Like Winter."
"Despite being a critically maligned release, this is one of ZAO's more memorable albums. Every song has an undefinable feel that resonates through every other song on the cd. This album was the brainchild of drummer Jesse Smith, and it remains as being his biggest contribution to the band. Best Songs: Free the Three, How Are the Weak Free."
"This album would have been one of their best, if you could tell what was going on. ZAO recorded with Steve Albani (of Nirvana producing fame), and due to that costly decision, this album sounds terrible. Despite the great song writing, the drum mix muddies all the rest of the music. Best Songs: Physician Heal Thyself, Its Hard Not to Shake...."
"This is another CD that suffers from bad recording, only its the opposite of TFIWKUH. In Self-Titled, the drums are so clean and clicky, it makes the music behind it seem nearly as cheap. This is the other album that was mostly written by drummer Jesse Smith. Best Songs: The Dreams That Don't Come True, 5 Year Winter."
"This was the first (major) indie ZAO release. And surprisingly, they have an awesome start. The music is heavy, precise, and filled with heart. The only thing I hate about this record is then-vocalist Shawn Jonas' vocals. I can't take them seriously. He sounds like raving mad midget clown getting tortured to death. Best Songs: Surrounds Me, Repressed."
"This album was recorded in order for ZAO to fulfill their contract with Sold State, so they could get out of that despicable relationship. They just rerecorded their very first release from 1995. The result is a weak album bookended by two really good songs. Best Songs: Resistance, All Else Failed."